The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway . -- Henry Boye
Messages from the Masters
Ask the Wrong Questions, Get the Wrong Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer

The most important aspect of making a sale -- is also a major weakness of every salesperson. Asking questions.

It's an enigma to me. Questions are so critical, you'd think it would be the topic of training every week. Yet salespeople are odds on favorites to have never taken one training program in the science of asking a question. 

How critical? The first personal (rapport) question sets the tone for the meeting, and the first business question sets the tone for the sale. That's critical.

Benefits of asking the right question? Good question. 

Here are 9.5 benefits to make sales by:

1. Qualify the buyer.
2. Establish rapport.
3. Create prospect disparity.
4. Eliminate or differentiate from the competition.
5. Build credibility.
6. Know the customer and her business.
7. Identify needs.
8. Find hot buttons.
9. Get personal information.
and 9.5 Close the sale.

All these answers come from asking the right questions. Power Questions. 

Here's the rub: 
Do you have 25 of them -- the most powerful questions you can create -- at your fingertips? No? Join the crowd. 95% of all salespeople don't. That could be why only 5% of salespeople rise to the top. Just a theory (or is it?)

Here's the challenge: 
Get every prospect and customer to say "No one ever asked me that before." 

Here are the 7.5 questioning success strategies:

1. Ask the prospect questions that make him evaluate new information. 
2. Ask questions that qualify needs.
3. Ask questions about improved productivity, profits or savings.
4. Ask questions about company or personal goals. 
5. Ask questions that separate you from your competition -- not compare you to them. 
6. Ask questions that make the customer or prospect think before giving a response.
7. Ask Power Questions to create a BUYING atmosphere -- not a selling one. 
7.5 a critical success strategy: To enhance your listening skills, write down answers. It proves you care, preserves your data for follow-up, keeps the record straight, and makes the customer feel important. 

How do you formulate a power question?

Here's the secret: 
There's a secret to creating and asking the right type of Power Question. Ask a question that makes the prospect think about me and my business, and respond in terms of the them and their business. 

Sounds complicated -- but it isn't.

Here are some bad examples:

  • What type of life insurance do you have?
  • Do you have a pager?
  • Who do you currently use for long distance service?
All stink.

Here are some good examples:

  • If your husband died, how would the house payments be made? How would the children go to college?
  • If your most important customer called right now, how would you get the message?
  • If your long distance charges were 30% higher than they should be, how would you know?
All make the buyer think and respond in terms of his own interests, and answer in terms of the seller. WOW!

Here's a winner: Scott Wells, of Time Warner Cable in Raleigh, came up with a grand-slam home-run question in a training session -- The objective was to ask a prospect qualifying questions about getting cable TV, and sell all premium channels possible. Scott asked, "If you owned your own Cable channel, Ms. Jones, what would be on it?" WOW, what a question -- it draws out all the likes, (and perhaps the dislikes) of the customer, and puts every answer in terms of the sale being made. 

Here's a series: Let's say I train sales teams (hey, what a coincidence, I do). Here's a series of questions designed to make my prospect think about himself, and answer in terms of me. (Answers are not given here, and can sometimes play a part in question order, but you'll get the process.)

  • How many of your salespeople did not meet their sales goals last year?
  • Why? (What was the major cause?)
  • What plans have you made to ensure that they will this year?
  • What type of personal development plan for each salesperson have you put into place?
  • How do you support your sales staff?
  • How much training did you budget last year? 
  • How much did you wish you'd have budgeted?
  • When training takes place, how do you measure each individual's professional development progress?
These eight questions will give me enough answers to rewrite their sales record book (and their checkbook).

It's not just asking questions, it's asking the right questions. A sale is made or lost based on the questions you ask. If you aren't making all the sales you want -- start by evaluating the specific wording of the questions you're asking. Your answers are in your questions. Questions unlock sales. Uh, any questions?


Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Knock Your Socks Off Selling and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless. To order Jeffrey's many books and/or audios and videos, go to www.yoursuccessstore.com.  (c) 1999 All Rights Reserved.

Provided courtesy of  Jim Rohn International